Security forces ready for elections

1905
Police minister Nathi Mthetwa says the South African security forces are ready and in place to ensure a peaceful election this week.

South Africa goes to the polls on Wednesday in an election the ruling African National Congress is widely expected to win, albeit with a slightly reduced margin.

      

Veteran political analyst Allister Sparks expects the ANC that has ruled South Africa since 1994 to garner between 60 and 65% of the vote, down from 70% in 2004.

He expects the largest Parliamentary opposition party, the Democratic Alliance to grow from 12% to 15% and the ANC-splinter party, the Congress of the People, led by former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota to win between eight and 10% of the vote. Under SA`s proportional representation system 10% of the vote will translate into 40 seats in the 400-seat National Assembly.           

Bua News reports Mthetwa and government’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster (JCPS) cluster assured South Africans on Friday that everything would be done to ensure the elections will be free and fair in violence hotspots such as Nongoma.

“We can confidently proclaim that the forthcoming democratic elections in KwaZulu-Natal will be conducted under a peaceful and fair environment,” Mthetwa said.

“Our ground forces are ready to protect all citizens that will be voting on Election Day. They will also provide additional security support to the electoral officers of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).”

Mthetwa averred the province would remain within the watchful eye of the JCPS cluster until all election activities were over. “We remain hopeful that besides the high number of recorded incidents, this province is under strict control and will deliver a peaceful and fair election.

“The leadership of the cluster will remain in the province even on Election Day to ensure maximum monitoring and speedy decision making.”

The JCPS says KwaZulu-Natal remains a major cause of concern especially in hotspots such as Nongoma, Ntabamhlophe, Ulundi, KwaDukuza, Greytown and Msinga.

However, a “large number of police and soldiers have been deployed in the province to unmask the perpetrators of political violence,” Bua, a state news service, reported.

It added the police`s National Intervention Unit has already successfully arrested 60 people in election-related incidents.

Outside KwaZulu-Natal, Mthetwa was concerned about the situation in Moutse, Limpopo, where some residents are demanding incorporation into the Mpumalanga province.

“This is indeed a major concern, but as a back-up we have unleashed the highest number of soldiers and back-up police to secure the area as well as possible assistance to the IEC personnel who might be intimidated,” he said.

Defence Minister Charles Nqakula said even though he is hopeful that there will be peaceful elections in Limpopo, he issued a stern warning to those who were intent on disrupting the elections. “Our law enforcement is ready to respond accordingly to those who might attempt to disrupt the smooth running of the elections,” he said.

He further sought to assure the public that the authorities would deploy soldiers and police at all voting stations in hotspots if the need arose.

“We’ve also prioritised election related cases and requested the Department of Justice to enforce strict bail conditions and speedy trials to those charged with breaching the electoral laws,” Nqakula said.

According to the JCPS, the Northern Cape and Free State provinces remain the most peaceful and less problematic, Bua reports. “The North West province is relatively calm and peaceful and the JCPS do not anticipate any major problem on Election Day.”

“According to the cluster, Mpumalanga is stable, peaceful and has no recorded element of threat. The Eastern Cape is also calm, however, a contingency plan and technical readiness are in place for a smooth election. A police helicopter will also be deployed to the province as well as other equipment in the Butterworth area.”

On Thursday Cabinet noted “that campaigning for the general elections has proceeded very well with only a few and isolated reports of violence”.

In a statement issued after President Kgalema Motlanthe`s last meeting as head of the executive, Cabinet called on all South Africans to vote and appealed to do nothing to prevent free, fair and peaceful elections “in every corner of our country.

“No amount of intimidation and or violence will be tolerated. Security personnel will be ready to deal with anyone attempting to prevent South Africans from exercising their hard earned right to vote,” the statement added.

Former President Nelson Mandela`s spouse Graça Machel has also called on political hotheads to keep their cool. Speaking to the state broadcaster she said “the world is watching SA.” She told the SABC “SA has somehow been a face and a voice of how Africans are able to come together and deal with intractable issues. So we should not spoil that image of maturity, of hope…”



Recent flawed elections in Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe as well as coups in Madagascar, Mauretania and Guinea in addition to the assassination of the president of Guinea Bissau have dented Africa`s global image.